March 27, 2022 at 7:52 p.m.
“My grandpa bought three Ayrshires in an auction,” John said. “My mom was the youngest of 11 children, and she sort of claimed them as hers. This year will be the 70th year our family will have shown Ayrshires at the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield. Our kids are the third generation.”
For John’s efforts in breeding registered Ayrshires, he was presented with the Distinguished Breeder Award at the Wisconsin State Ayrshire Convention March 5 in Tomah.
On their Foggy Valley Farm, which has been in John’s family for 140 years, the Offers milk 50 cows, most of which are Ayrshires. Their three sons, Hunter, 12, Peyton, 11, and Tanner, 6, are all involved in the day-to-day farm chores and enjoy being members of the Wisconsin Junior Ayrshire Breeders Association.
“To work at something for your entire life and then to be recognized for that work by your peers, that is really humbling,” John said.
John began his career breeding Ayrshires when he started taking over the farm following his high school graduation. He added to the farm’s existing Ayrshire herd by purchasing nine springing heifers, seven of which had heifer calves.
Since that purchase, the Offers have focused their efforts on breeding the kind of cows they want to work with, only making a few key purchases here and there.
“We really admire how hardy the breed is,” Shauna said. “They are relatively trouble-free and are very healthy. We see less cases of milk fever, fewer displaced abomasums and less incidence of ketosis.”
Focusing their breeding program on selecting for sound functional type has helped the Offers achieve their goals.
“We really want to breed cows that can last a long time,” John said. “To do that, they need to have good udders, and sound feet and legs. That is where we place our focus.”
Bulls that have been working well recently in the Offers’ breeding program include Cedarcut Colata’s Champion, Good-Vue-Kp Dynamic, Palmyra Lochinvar Reynolds and Visserdale Shining.
Like their fellow registered Ayrshire breeders, the Offers are concerned about recessive genes in the breed, such as the recently identified Curly Calf syndrome, and they vigilantly guard against matings that might result in affected calves.
Competing in the show ring is something the Offers enjoy doing as a family, and each year they participate in the Midwest Ayrshire Show, the Central Wisconsin State Fair and World Dairy Expo. This summer, Hunter will be eligible to exhibit at the Wisconsin Junior State Fair in West Allis.
The Offers’ diligence with their breeding program has paid off with show ring accolades collected by members of their small herd. They have been recognized with 17 all-American nominations and numerous junior all-American nominations.
“We will keep breeding for type,” John said. “We enjoy showing, and now both Hunter and Peyton are old enough to show in the junior show at Expo. It is a great feeling to give them that experience, and watching them develop an interest in the breed is wonderful.”
One current herd favorite is Honey-Dew Dreamer Ellie EX-91. As Hunter’s junior project, Ellie has been nominated junior all-American four times, three of which were in milking form. Ellie is a third-generation homebred animal and carries the Honey-Dew prefix of John’s brother. Ellie is due this summer, and Hunter hopes to exhibit her to her fifth nomination.
Another herd favorite is Cici’s Dozer Carley VG-87. Carley was selected as the 2020 Wisconsin Ayrshire Cow of the Year.
An influential cow family at Foggy Valley Farm is that of Moy-Ayr Bonoparte Nicki EX-91. She was purchased in 1996 and lived to be 16 years old.
“We did some embryo transfer work with Nicki, and she had a lot of offspring and still has a number of descendants in the herd,” John said.
Another family that factors heavily into the Foggy Valley herd is that of Honey-Dew Cav’s Candy Apple VG-85.
The Offers said they owe a lot to the Ayrshire cow.
“The Ayrshire cow is the rock that our farm is built on,” John said. “Without Ayrshires in our barn, it is hard to imagine what our lives would be like. She has given us so much, and she continues to provide for our family and give our children great opportunities.”
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